Kafez

Literary

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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Monday, 16 June 2008

I am enjoying myself so very much in Tanzania. It's really painful for me not to be able to tell you all more but this is of course, temporary. I'm collecting all my material for stories so if I gave out too much it wouldn't be fun anymore. I hope when the time comes that you will want to read of comical episodes and startling experiences.

Far from a holiday, my trip turned serious and purposeful as soon as I stepped into Dar and it really happened this way without any planning. There was so much raw material here...so much to explore. Most of the present Tanzanian literature revolves around the Kilimanjaro or the Masai tribsefolk but hardly anywhere else.

I have been trekking the slum areas and also enjoying the entertainment afforded to the lower-income group, this mostly in poor fishing villages. Their social outings and daily lifestyles are totally different from anyone else. The majority of expatriates and tourists avoid these places like the plague believing them to be dangerous or ready to smite one with ill-health. With the help of Lemington my guide, I was able to venture into unknown territory. Tanzanians are a peace-loving lot and with a few exceptions are polite. They can be dour but courtesy and sincere smiles can take the foreigner a long way even if you're still learning the language. In such places, I am the only outsider.

Sometimes, when I do need time out, I take myself off to the beach cafes and bookstores, reserved for the discerning tourist or expatriate. Here I write my letters, send postcards, read and reflect on how I want to shape my plots. I have been studying the books sold here with intent and as a result, bought several titles. There is of course, the British Council Library right in the heart of the city centre. The famous bookshop A Novel Idea is where I often purchase my novels. The bookshop owners import the newest titles from Britain so naturally, I feel very much at home. And yes, I do agree that the provide excellent service and that they're the best bookstore chain in East Africa

Wealthy North Indian businessmen mostly from Mumbai and Delhi who are everything from hoteliers, restauranteurs and bankers to tailors, shop-owners and wholesalers own many of the business enterprises here. Imbued with a colourful African culture, there is a strong Indian heritage here quite unlike anywhere else even in Malaysia. Many own expensive homes and drive luxury Land Cruisers.

This morning as I sauntered along the road, a young man who had been hacked at the back of his neck ran past me, so swiftly and quietly, that his feet made no sound on the ground. His stealthly movements left me shocked and I stood stunned as he passed me by a hair's breath. It was clear that someone had attempted to behead him but while having caused the poor guy serious injury, had not got very far. The youth spotted deep cuts, was bloodied and blood trailed everywhere as he ran with fright. His trousers were in ribbons but he simply shot by like a gazelle; silent, sharp and alert even if it meant that he had to keep turning back with a watchful and desperate eye. His desperate struggle for survival and a fear for his attackers, forced the man to ignore his searing pain. He glanced over his shoulder with a strange grace. His determination was nothing short of miraculous.
Again it all felt unreal almost as if I had passed through a fictitious scene. I was unaccompanied today. Everyone was shocked and stood rooted to the ground. Someone shouted for the police - polisi in Swahili - but I gathered that, that was more from a desire to help the unlucky guy. Most of us looked back as well to see if anyone was chasing the injured youth but there was no one waving a machete or giving chase. I know that we all hoped the victim had got away on time. Already in a few seconds as he slid past the watching crowd who had made space for him, he had simply vanished like he had never been.

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